The church can learn a lot from organizations like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous). Two primary reasons:
- they’re honest
- they have a plan
If you attend a meeting with your friend Gerald, you’ll hear him say, “Hello, my name is Gerald, and I’m an alcoholic.”
There will be no gasps or horrified looks. No one will point or whisper. Instead, everyone will smile and respond in unison: “Hi Gerald.”
AA members are honest with one another. They don’t wear masks, hoping you don’t look too deeply into their eyes, and they don’t avoid tough conversations. Instead, they unrobe themselves, vulnerably communicating, “I recognize I’ve got a problem, and I want to do something about it.”
AA members are honest, but they also have a plan.
AA participants welcome you, but then they equip you with a sponsor, someone who also struggles with alcoholism but has made some progress utilizing AA’s twelve-steps. Sponsors expect you will face the temptation to consume alcohol. Instead of shaming you, they give you their phone number with the instruction to contact them anytime you are tempted to drink. They know you will need a friend who understands and will be available.
Guess what? If you want to grow in your faith and be the person God is calling you to be, you need a sponsor. It doesn’t have to be someone perfect—they don’t exist—but someone willing and available to pray with you, listen to you, and encourage you.
Pastor and author Eugene Peterson writes, “Spiritual formation takes place essentially in the company of friends, of peers.” Disciples learn, grow, and live out their faith best in the company of friends, and that’s primarily what a sponsor is: a friend and teammate.
Spiritual formation takes place essentially in the company of friends, of peers. –Eugene Peterson
Overall, Jesus’ followers can do better. Instead of pretending as if we don’t have problems, or—worse—looking at others with judgment, we need to admit we have setbacks.
Get started in three ways:
- Practice confessing your struggles. You don’t have to do it on a busy street corner, but you should have a friend or two with whom you can call and speak honestly.
- Ask someone you respect to be your spiritual sponsor (mentor). Do it for six months and then re-evaluate from there.
- Reach out to someone who may be new in their faith or someone whose faith has stalled and needs a jumpstart. Propose being their spiritual sponsor for six months and then re-evaluate.
“Why call it ‘sponsor?’ Why not use a word like mentor or trainer or guide? Won’t people think I’m referring to AA?” Use whatever word works for you, but I like AA’s language. I like the parallel with AA because it reminds us of their success and that honesty and teamwork matter.
Jesus’ followers need sponsors. When we walk with others through life, we worship God. When we try to do everything on our own, we worship ourselves.
Looking for a document that provides an overview of what a sponsor does? Download “Sponsor overview” here.
QUESTION (leave a comment below)
Do you agree or disagree with the idea of having a spiritual sponsor? Why?
5 thoughts on “You Need a Sponsor”
I agree in many ways and what a Godincidence that I was married to an alcoholic who struggled with sobriety and AA was a very big part of his life and while he lived in rehabilitation facilities intermittently throughout our marriage, I attended many a meeting. My children attended Al-Anon meetings. It’s an amazing place for many people that rely on it and it is closely related to discipleship in that for most of them they rely on faith and hope of Christ and one another. Christians place that same reliance in Jesus first and their church next. Those that are involved in the church and look for ways to grow bigger in faith, we rely on one another in several different situations. I would love to be a sponsor and bring someone to a relationship with God or even further than that, especially someone who may be struggling with alcohol addiction, who can put total faith in Jesus to overcome the enemy of addiction. Amen to Jesus 🙂
Thank you for sharing, Denise. I agree it is closely related to discipleship and a wodnerful model for us to make disciples. Let’s invest in others in such a way that they trust us and we trust them.
Hey Gregg. Great article. I have been a member of AA for 16 years. It is a program of completer surrender. Surrendering to the fact that we can not get sober alone. We can only get sober through God and another human being. Giving up our will. Their is a big difference between being sober (AA & Gods will ) and being dry (no God, self will) I like the sponsorship model. I think it would be great in church. It is about trust and honesty. In AA their is an expression: “to thine own self be true” I think when new people check out a new church or first timers, trust and honesty are an issue. A church sponsor can help them not only trust the church but the word of God. In AA the big book is the blueprint on how to get sober. And by reading and re-reading it, going to AA meeting and staying in fellowship you stay sober. In Church, the Bible is the blueprint on how to live. And by reading and re-reading it, going to church / small groups and staying in fellowship you stay in faith. Their are other expressions in AA that correlate Christianity: “Half measures avail us NOTHING” – “Anything you put before your sobriety you will loose” – ” AA is a program of attraction not promotion” On a closing note, AA would not be here today if it weren’t for service. In AA you really learn what it is like to be the hands and feet of Jesus by serving God and humanity. Thanks for the article and hope to talk soon – Rich Cutler
Wow! Thanks, Rich. Such a great overview of the impact AA has made in your life and many others. I celebrate with you for your sobriety for 16+ years, and I am eager to see the disciples you will make for the rest of your life!